Aimee Barth wrote Kosher in my Screenwriting II class for the final assignment—a five-page script she would direct for her B.F.A. Filmmaking III project. Like so many terrific short films, Kosher was conceived close to home.
The idea surfaced out of my little brother's desire to be Jewish so that he could have a Bar Mitzvah. When my mother denied his request to convert (we were raised Lutheran), he exclaimed, "You refuse to accept the fact that my soul is entering my body!" Always a precocious kid, (he became a vegetarian at age six citing he would NOT eat the 'flesh of the dead'), he became the model for the main character, Charles, and thus the idea for Kosher was born. Of course, like every idea, it changed quite a bit when I put pen to paper and again when we put lens to actor. But, all in all, the final draft of the script and the product on the screen are nearly identical.
Aimee's first draft, however, was a bit loose and baggy (as I encourage first drafts to be), but in the rewrite process, she took to heart the art of subtraction, cutting extraneous scenes, beats, lines, and words.
I think what made Kosher unique was the story's simplicity, and severe editing in the rewrite stage. You and I made sure that no line was wasted, and that translates quite well to the finished product. When you watch the film, it moves quickly, flows easily and doesn't mince words.
I agree. It's a perfect example of how gracefully a screenplay story can be told by hitting scenes late and getting out of them early.
Aimee credits her producer and editor, Emily McMahon, for "helping immensely every step of the way" in the redrafting of Kosher during production and post. "Emily's adept grasp of story enabled me to make only the most necessary changes and kept Kosher tight and comedic. And we never lost sight of the story we were trying to tell."
Neither did the world. Kosher has charmed audiences at film festivals here and abroad, winning numerous awards including Best Short Film Under 10 Minutes from the 2001 Wine Country Film Festival in Glen Ellen, California; Best Student Mini-Film from the 2001 Independents' Film Festival in Tampa, Florida; Best of Category & Show from the 2001 Damah Film Festival in Seattle, Washington; the Joey Award Trophy from the 2001 San Jose Film Commission in California; Best Short Film from the 2002 Flanzer Jewish Community Center 4th Annual Festival of Films in Sarasota, Florida; the Shoestring Award from the 2002 Rochester International Film Festival in New York; Best College Narrative from the 2002 Da Vinci Film & Video Festival in Corvallis, Oregon; Best Arrangement: Cinema in Umbria, Umbertide, Italy, in 2002; and Second Prize for Comedy in 2002 from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences—a.k.a. the student Emmies.
When I asked Aimee what she's doing now, she said, "I'm in L.A., living the dream. I've been working in craft service while I finish my first screenplay, at the request of a literary agent. I was recently contracted by a production company in the Bay Area, Highway Video, to direct short content films for them. I'm now working as an assistant at a top management agency called 'The Firm.' And I'm being considered as Kate Hudson's body double for her latest film, Skeleton Key—keep your fingers crossed!"
By Aimee Barth
Autumn leaves fall from a massive oak tree and settle on the checkered tablecloth of a playground picnic where our 7-year-old hero, CHARLES ROBINSON, and his girlfriend, RACHEL LEVY, dine during recess. They stare deeply into each other's eyes. Charles takes her hand in his.
I've been meaning to ask you something for a long time.
He reaches into his corduroy pants' pocket and pulls out a little gold box, opening it to reveal a small ring with a sparkly plastic butterfly.
Rachel, we've been boyfriend and girlfriend since Tuesday, and you're the coolest girl in school. You're always picked first for kickball. . . will you marry me?
Rachel is speechless. She eyes the ring.
Charles slips the ring onto her finger. She admires it, beaming.
Come on! We can get Micah to marry us. He's practically a Rabbi.
EXT. PLAYGROUND BLEACHERS—CONTINUOUS
Charles and Rachel sit before MICAH, an older boy draped in a talus and wearing a Yarmulke, his hands folded atop the Torah.
I can't. Charles isn't Jewish.
CHARLES What does that matter?
Do you go to Temple, Charles?
Charles shakes his head, not understanding.
MICAH Do you go to Church?
Exactly. He's not a Jew, Rachel. You can't get married. It's practically against the law.
Micah yanks his things from the bleachers and stomps off. Charles and Rachel lower their heads in defeat. An idea strikes.
I've got it. I'll become Jewish!
CHARLES I will. Tell me what to do.
I think becoming Jewish is a tedious process, Charles. It can't be taken lightly.
I love you, Rachel. Tell me what to do.
Well. . . are you circumcised?
INT. DINING ROOM—DINNER TIME
Charles and his mother, MRS. ROBINSON, a petite woman with a booming personality, sit before a ham dinner, their hands folded and heads bowed.
MRS. ROBINSON Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
Shabbat Shalom. Mrs. Robinson's head snaps up.
Charles picks the tines of his fork with his fingers. Mrs. Robinson begins piling Charles' plate with food. He just stares at it.
MRS. ROBINSON What's wrong, Charles, aren't you hungry?
MRS. ROBINSON Eat your ham, kiddo.
MRS. ROBINSON Of course you can, it's your favorite.
CHARLES Yeah, but it's not kosher.
Mrs. Robinson sets her fork down.
This food is not clean or fit to eat by the dietary laws of Judaism.
MRS. ROBINSON I know what kosher means.
Charles returns to the task of chasing peas around his plate. Mrs. Robinson eyes him suspiciously and clears her throat.
I'm becoming Jewish. I'm marrying Rachel tomorrow after school. She's Jewish.
MRS. ROBINSON Why would you want to do that? You were baptized at Holy Cross!
I love her, Mom. I'll do anything to marry her.
MRS. ROBINSON What do you know about love, Charles? You're six years old. Now eat your ham.
Mrs. Robinson gathers her strength with a single breath.
MRS. ROBINSON Charles. You know the rules. You do not leave this table until you finish your dinner.
Charles' nostrils flare and he crosses his arms in defiance. Mrs. Robinson raises an eyebrow. A stand off.
INT. DINING ROOM—NIGHT
The sun is setting on the dinner table. Charles remains put, glaring at the ham.
INT. DINING ROOM—NIGHT
Night has fallen. The crickets chirp rhythmically outside. Charles hasn't budged.
INT. DINING ROOM—DAY
Morning has broken. Mrs. Robinson enters and clears his plate, shaking her head at her stubborn child. Charles smirks victoriously. He's won.
Leaves flutter from the oak tree branches down to where Charles and Rachel stand before Micah, in his robe and talus, clutching the Torah. Rachel is radiant in a white summer dress and flowers in her hair. Charles stands tall in his black tux. A small crowd of little children has gathered for the ceremony.
Do you, Rachel Levy, take this man, Charles Robinson to be your awfully wedded husband?
And do you, Charles, take Rachel till death do you part?
Micah turns to the BEST MAN, a tiny little thing with a mop of blonde hair. The Best Man wraps a plastic wine glass in a napkin and hands it to Micah. He gingerly places it on the ground. Charles stomps on the wine glass with fervor.
MICAH You may kiss the bride.
Rachel wrinkles her nose.
CHARLES (slamming his palm to his forehead)
Oy veh! OVER BLACK: The Wedding March begins.
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